Life After Layoffs: How Empanadas Gave Me A Sense Of Belonging

When COVID-19 reached the United States, I was working full time as an in-house content writer for a company that was about to launch a credit card review website. I kept coming into work each day feeling secure that this pandemic surely wouldn’t affec…

When COVID-19 reached the United States, I was working full time as an in-house content writer for a company that was about to launch a credit card review website. I kept coming into work each day feeling secure that this pandemic surely wouldn’t affect the industry I worked in. It wasn’t long before human resources decided that I, along with other creative team members, were costing the company too much in the midst of this health crisis and dismissed us.

I drove home, thinking about what I was going to do. It felt as though something greater than myself took over, and I made a detour to my favorite Latino grocery store. I felt myself guided towards the ingredients I needed to make Peruvian-style empanadas: a cartload of red onions, a big hunk of beef eye round (what is referred to as “boliche”), butter, lard, ají amarillo chilies, cumin, and oregano. I loaded my trunk with the groceries, pulled out my phone, and announced to my social media followers that I had just gotten laid off and would be selling Peruvian empanadas that week.

Read More >>

Is This the Most Refreshing Drink in the World?

I’ll never forget my first taste of Rooh Afza, the “Summer Drink of the East,” a South Asian syrup that was a mainstay in our house growing up. It was as if something had turned on inside of me. I could only liken it to the first time ones tries cheese…

I’ll never forget my first taste of Rooh Afza, the "Summer Drink of the East,” a South Asian syrup that was a mainstay in our house growing up. It was as if something had turned on inside of me. I could only liken it to the first time ones tries cheese, or a first kiss. I never knew such a flavor could exist and that it could bring me such pleasure.

The two ingredients that give Rooh Afza its signature taste are rose water and kewra, which is also known as Screw Pine Essence. This name is a misnomer; I mistakenly believed for years in the existence of some type of floral pine tree, but kewra is actually the white flower of the pandanus plant. The leaves of this plant, called pandan, are a ubiquitous flavoring in many Southeast Asian desserts. The flower is a vital ingredient in many special-occasion dishes in South Asia, particularly those associated with Muslim communities.

Read More >>

A Very Good Thing to Make With All Those Overripe Bananas Sitting on Your Counter

I often bring home a bunch of bananas from the grocery store, thinking I’ll take them to work as a lunchtime dessert or midmorning snack. The very next day, I’ll forget about them, and before long they’ll blacken on the counter. My husband also buys a …

I often bring home a bunch of bananas from the grocery store, thinking I’ll take them to work as a lunchtime dessert or midmorning snack. The very next day, I’ll forget about them, and before long they’ll blacken on the counter. My husband also buys a bunch of bananas and forgets to eat them, and our roommate too purchases enormous bunches of the fruit on his sporadic trips to the wholesale club. For some reason, everyone in our household thinks the fruit will be eaten, but it always ends up going to waste.

I wonder if this is unique to us or if it happens to other people, too.

Read More >>

Moussaka, but Make It Bulgarian

While many are most familiar with Greek-style moussaka (consisting of layers of eggplant, potatoes, and minced meat topped with a white sauce), this dish has variations all throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The origin of the word moussaka actually …

While many are most familiar with Greek-style moussaka (consisting of layers of eggplant, potatoes, and minced meat topped with a white sauce), this dish has variations all throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The origin of the word moussaka actually comes from the Arabic musaqqa’a (مسقعة), which roughly means “to moisten,” referring to the fact that many versions of this dish consist of slices of eggplant that soak up a zesty tomato sauce.

Some food historians suggest that the origin of this dish is found in the Ottoman Empire, and a version of moussaka is served in Turkey to this day. This theory makes the most sense considering that the spread of moussaka throughout the Mediterranean coincides with the reach of the Ottoman Empire at its peak. Currently, you can find versions of this dish in the Levant (the area around Lebanon), Egypt, Romania, Greece, and the Balkans, and each former Ottoman territory has its own way of preparing it.

Read More >>

The Hot Chocolate Bread Pudding That Makes My Peruvian Christmas

For many Peruvians, there is no Christmas without panetón (this is the local Spanish pronunciation of panettone, a northern Italian sweet bread studded with dried and candied fruit). In Peru, it also includes candied papaya. The reason why this Italian…

For many Peruvians, there is no Christmas without panetón (this is the local Spanish pronunciation of panettone, a northern Italian sweet bread studded with dried and candied fruit). In Peru, it also includes candied papaya. The reason why this Italian baked good ended up so firmly embedded in Peruvian culture is the same reason why we ended up with dishes like tallarines verdes and sopa seca. Peru is home to a significant Italian immigrant population, which has greatly influenced the local cuisine, particularly around Christmas.

In my family, we often varied what we had for dinner on Christmas Eve, and I grew up not really knowing what a traditional Peruvian Christmas looked like. My dad, who always tried to infuse every occasion with some Peruvian flavor, fell in love with American-style roast beef and ended up making that every Dec. 24. He never faltered, however, from serving the most traditional Peruvian Christmas element for dessert: panetón and hot chocolate. It was easy to include panetón on the Christmas Eve table as it’s something you buy rather than make yourself. Considering that my dad never really learned to cook Peruvian food, this was a saving grace.

Read More >>

The Miraculous History of Peru’s Most Sacred Dessert

Every October, the country of Peru becomes fixated on the color purple in preparation for one of its most important religious events: El Señor de los Milagros, or the Lord of Miracles. Catholic Peruvians all over celebrate this feast day on Oct. 28, th…

Every October, the country of Peru becomes fixated on the color purple in preparation for one of its most important religious events: El Señor de los Milagros, or the Lord of Miracles. Catholic Peruvians all over celebrate this feast day on Oct. 28, the focal point of which is a large procession through the streets of the capital city, Lima.

Donning purple cloaks, the faithful accompany the processional platform carrying an image of the Crucifixion while swinging censers of smoldering palo santo wood. By some accounts, this is one of the largest regular Christian processions in the world, and the lead-up to the day is punctuated by smaller neighborhood processions and other religious events. Local parishes drape purple cloths in their sanctuaries as retailers offer special deals for "Purple Month." The fervor around this holiday can be likened to the Brazilian carnival, though a lot more solemn.

Read More >>

Why Isn’t Everyone Talking About Cuban Pizza?

I have to pick up my partner, John, from Miami International Airport. His flight arrives past midnight, and while this may cause many locals to groan, I’m actually excited. Any reason to be in the western parts of M…

I have to pick up my partner, John, from Miami International Airport. His flight arrives past midnight, and while this may cause many locals to groan, I’m actually excited. Any reason to be in the western parts of Miami-Dade County is also a reason to have pizza cubana. The existence of two 24-hour Cuban pizzerias minutes from Miami’s airport also means that we've created our own tradition of treating ourselves to these cheesy, fluffy pizzas any time one of us flies into MIA.

This particular style of pizza is said to have originated on Varadero Beach in Cuba, a popular holiday destination for many people on the island. Allegedly, the originator moved to Miami after the communist revolution and reopened his famous pizzeria, Montes de Oca. Visit any of the handful of locations scattered across western Miami, and the sign will remind you that it is the original Cuban pizza.

Read More >>

The Best Use for the Instant Pot

Welcome to Set It & Forget It, a new series about all the ways we rely on our Crock-Pots, Instant Pots, and ovens during the colder months. Whether it’s a long braise on the stove or a quick burst in the pressure cooker, one thing’s for sure: Comfo…

Welcome to Set It & Forget It, a new series about all the ways we rely on our Crock-Pots, Instant Pots, and ovens during the colder months. Whether it’s a long braise on the stove or a quick burst in the pressure cooker, one thing’s for sure: Comfort food means comfort cooking.


My husband bought me an Instant Pot on Amazon Day three years ago, after I had dropped hints that I may need to get an electric pressure cooker at some point. The type of food I prefer to cook and eat at home consists largely of stews, after all. There is for me something so satisfying about putting a whole bunch of things into a single pot, letting it simmer for the better part of an afternoon, and then returning to the stove to find something magical.

Read More >>

This Buttery, Bejeweled Pastry Is the Best Thing I Ate in Mexico City

As an upstairs neighbor, the United States—especially in states like Texas and California—has its own unique Mexican food culture, one that echoes the original cuisine in many ways. No party is complete without tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole, an…

As an upstairs neighbor, the United States—especially in states like Texas and California—has its own unique Mexican food culture, one that echoes the original cuisine in many ways. No party is complete without tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole, and we have a whole day of the week devoted to tacos (it’s so prevalent, even, that someone’s trademarked it).

This love for the foods of our southern neighbors, however, rarely extends to desserts. Sure, some of us in the U.S. are lucky enough to have a neighborhood paletería where we can sample an assortment of technicolor popsicles in flavors like sweet corn and mango with chile. Others may have access to Mexican bakeries that feature shelves laden with crackly conchas and other similar, lightly sweetened breads. Nevertheless, most of us may only be familiar with flan and churros (which are originally Spanish and found all throughout the Spanish-speaking world) and maybe tres leches cake (which is actually Nicaraguan).

Read More >>